What to Know
- The Mid-Hudson region started Phase III Tuesday, reopening indoor dining and personal care services with restrictions; Long Island is on track to make the transition Wednesday, joining the rest of the state but NYC
- New York City beaches will be open for swimming July 1, Mayor de Blasio announced late Tuesday; meanwhile, NY state and New Jersey are two of just three U.S. states on track to contain COVID, new data shows
- In New Jersey, Gov. Phil Murphy says outdoor amusement and water parks, including boardwalk rides, can reopen July 2 at half capacity; playgrounds can also reopen at that time, he said Tuesday
Hope that quarantine bod is ready to soak up some sun, because New York City may get a beach season after all.
Mayor Bill de Blasio announced late Wednesday that beaches in the city will be open for both swimming and sunbathing starting July 1, according to a spokesperson for the mayor. The city has trained enough lifeguards and developed a COVID safety plan to cover the 14 miles of beaches in NYC, including Orchard Beach, the Rockaways, Coney Island and Staten Island, the mayor's spokesperson said.
Previously, city beaches were open only for sunbathing, and beach-goers were asked to only go into the water up to their knees. Other state and county beaches in the area have all opened, while some town beaches in Westchester County and on Long Island opened only for residents — leaving those who live in NYC with fewer options to cool off or enjoy the warm weather.
Meanwhile, New York's Mid-Hudson region moved to Phase III Tuesday, reopening indoor dining and personal care services like nail salons, spas and massage parlors (with restrictions) in Westchester, Rockland and five other counties.
Long Island is expected to make the transition Wednesday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo says, leaving New York City once again alone -- but this time in Phase II. Businesses there were prepping to open for customers, some of which haven't been able to open since March — and all of which were taking as many safety precautions as possible to as to assure people it is safe.
Phase III opens up everything from tanning salons and spas to tattoo and piercing shops, all of which must ensure strict social distancing and mask-wearing and are encouraged to conduct business by appointment only.
This next step, the third in Cuomo's four-phase reopening plan, also allows indoor dining to return, though capacity is limited to 50 percent (excluding employees), and increases the size limit on indoor gatherings from 10 to 25.
Home to New York's COVID "patient zero," the New Rochelle lawyer connected to what Cuomo called in early March one of the nation's fastest-growing virus clusters, the Mid-Hudson region has made significant strides the last few months. It now has just a 1 percent daily testing positivity rate, over a seven-day rolling average, mirroring the state's weekly rolling average as well as the city's.
Of the region's counties, Westchester boasts one of the lowest daily positivity rates (0.8 percent) as of Tuesday, while Rockland has a higher daily positivity rate (2.6 percent), than any county in the state that tests at least 500 people each day, including all five boroughs of New York City. Still, 2.6 percent is an astoundingly low number compared with the ratio of positive cases any New York county saw at the peak of the COVID crisis earlier this spring.
The phased reopenings haven't caused any significant spikes in infections in New York so far. Statewide, confirmed daily virus deaths and hospitalizations have hit pandemic lows after peaking in April.
Daily Percentage of Positive Tests by New York Region
Gov. Andrew Cuomo breaks the state into 10 regions for testing purposes and tracks positivity rates to identify potential hotspots. Here's the latest tracking data by region and for the five boroughs. For the latest county-level results statewide, click here
While data shows New York and New Jersey are two of three U.S. states on track to contain COVID, more than 20 other states are seeing infection rates surge.
Cuomo has said experts have advised him to implement a 14-day quarantine on travelers to New York from viral hotspots including Florida, where cases topped 100,000 Monday. The governor says he is "seriously considering" heeding that expert advice and speaking with New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy and Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont about a potential coordinated plan.
"We see what happens when you just reopen without science, without metrics, without data," Cuomo said on MSNBC Tuesday, referring to what he described as the reopening plan put forth by the White House. "It wasn't good for public health. We lost people we didn't need to lose and it wasn't good for the economy because those states that reopened in a rush now see a boomerang. And their economies are slowing and the stock market is nervous about the virus going up. And they may wind up closing again."
New York City now has one of the lowest virus transmission rates in America, an improvement it has maintained despite being one of the densest urban environments on the planet and a focal point of national protests over George Floyd's death. It made the move into Phase II Monday, which Mayor de Blasio described as the five boroughs' "biggest step forward" yet in their reopening.
De Blasio and his wife Chirlane McCray were one of the thousands enjoying outdoor dining for the first time in months Monday night, eating at Melba's Restaurant in Harlem, their table on the street in what used to be a parking spot.
Parking, of course, is an ongoing issue in New York City, especially as the new Open Restaurants plan gobbles up tens of thousands of spots. The mayor said Tuesday he was testing an overhaul of the city's alternate side parking system for the first time in two decades, one that would involve street cleanings once a week instead of two. That means New Yorkers would have to move their cars no more than once a week through summer. Alternate side parking is currently suspended through Sunday; it'll resume with the pilot in place Monday for a week. If it works, it could become the new normal for alternate side parking.
After going out to eat the day before, de Blasio did something many city residents have been dreaming of since March: He got a haircut, going to the same Astor Place shop he said he's gone to since 1984, during his days at NYU.
Tracking Coronavirus in Tri-State
Even as New York City dipped its toes into one phase of the "new normal" Monday as it entered Phase II, many are looking ahead to the next step.
All regions so far have spent two weeks in each phase before moving to the next. Asked Monday if he thought the city would be ready to enter Phase III in two weeks, on July 6, de Blasio said, "It's going to be based on the data and it's going to be, of course, a high bar because doing something here affects so many people we have to get it right."
New Jersey also wants to get it right. Murphy warned New Jerseyans Monday that he may have to hit pause on the current reopening plan if current health trends decline over the next week or so. If they hold, he said he'll be able to set a date soon for the start of Stage 3.
The very next day, spot positivity rates inched up, Murphy said Tuesday. Nearly a quarter of the state's June COVID cases have been people ages 18 to 29; that demographic accounted for just 12 percent of New Jersey's cases in April.
"We cannot have a one-day increase in our health metrics turn into a trend because people gave up on social distancing," the governor said. "I get that there is pent up emotion to get back outside. We all want to get out. There is no reason to be a knucklehead. Keep your distances. Wear your masks. Be smart and courteous – the world isn’t about you. Don’t be the knucklehead who ruins it for everyone else."
New Jersey is now in Stage 2. It took another big step this week, reopening pools, personal care services and non-contact organized sports. Murphy also raised the cap on outdoor gatherings to 250 and expects that limit to climb to 500 by the time socially distant graduations can resume in the state July 6. Indoor groups are now up to 25 percent capacity but can't exceed 100 people.
Right now, the plan is to reopen indoor shopping malls with limitations on June 29. Indoor dining can resume at 25 percent capacity (to start) on July 2. Casinos can also reopen that day with the same capacity limitations. Murphy added a few more reopenings to that July 2 date Tuesday: outdoor amusement and water parks, including boardwalk rides, along with playgrounds.
Connecticut has been the least hard-hit of the three tri-states on coronavirus and the most aggressive on reopening. New daily cases have dwindled to the low double digits, while Lamont added just three new fatalities to the toll Monday.
Everything has reopened or partially reopened in the Constitution State with the exception of state campgrounds (opening July 8), school (opening July 6 for limited summer sessions) and bars, which are slated to reopen in Stage 3 at a date to be determined. Summer camps in Connecticut reopened Monday.